James Young was a top-ranked player coming out of high school, touted as a sharpshooting wing that could catch fire and take over. But many scouts were disappointed with his inconsistency as a freshman with the Kentucky Wildcats.
Young shot a respectable 34.9 percent from three, but he'd go through long droughts before finding his stroke. In fact, the 6-foot-7 Young shot only 33.7 percent from behind the arc before saving his season with an outstanding 41.7 percent clip in tournament play.
After drafting Young with the No. 17 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the selection was met with some skepticism by Boston Celtics fans, but Brad Stevens and the coaching staff think they might have found the key that will unlock a more consistent James Young.
"Even at the three-point line, he shot it and it didn't look like there was any effort going into it. He's a smooth shooter," head coach Brad Stevens said before a recent practice, as reported by Jay King of MassLive.com. "He's just going to get better. When his footwork is consistent he's a lights-out shooter."
Looking at Young's future as a potential starter
James Young has the potential to be a great scorer in the NBA, but Boston Celtics fans must temper their expectations for his rookie season. Young is simply too underdeveloped to make a significant impact at this point of his career.
Young's footwork was a concern in many areas at Kentucky. Whether it was his lateral movements on defense, or approach near the rim, Young struggled. But as a "smooth shooter," the most important area of emphasis is undoubtedly his jump shot form.
According to Stevens, Young just needs to have a wider base on his jump shot, but he doesn't want him to make too many drastic changes.
"When you've got a guy that's that good of a shooter the worst thing you can do is get too mechanical," coach Stevens explained. "You don't want it him to become mechanical, he's as fluid as fluid gets. So, the only thing that I've told James is have the right, appropriate wide base every time he catches it."
Young echoed those thoughts, saying that it has just taken hundreds of repetitions for him to drill that into his learned motion.
"It's getting a lot better," said Young before Monday's pre-season game against Philadelphia. "It wasn't that good at first, but as the weeks went on and I started working out more, my footwork has gotten a lot better."
One of Young's prominent issues at Kentucky was his inability to shoot from deep range. He'd often front rim his shots, likely due to a poor base. "I usually shoot short because of the distance of the court, but I've been working on my one-two a lot more," sad Young.
Most of the league's greatest shooters utilize the "hop" on perimeter jumpers, but Young is primarily a "one-two" shooter. Some analysts may think the one-two is cause of his inconsistencies, but Stevens doesn't think it's a problem.
"Just depends on the shooter. But for him he's more of a one-two," said Stevens on the hop versus the one-two. "I'm a big believer in if you have touch, I don't want to mess with the shot too much. The last thing you need to be doing when you're shooting is thinking."
Brad Stevens is 100 percent correct about Young having touch, and the fact that shooting and thinking don't mesh well together. The last thing any shooter needs is to think, which means you're just getting into your own head.
However, James Young will need to improve on his 1-for-5 three-point shooting effort from Monday's preseason debut. He has a steep learning curve, but if he continues to shoot at a poor rate, the Celtics must be diligent in doing what they can to improve other areas of his form. If Young's shot isn't falling, what will he realistically offer the team over the course of the next few years?
Young was ranked 31st on my final 2014 NBA Draft big board. I was not high on him, as I believe it'll take the perfect situation for him to reach his potential. Fortunately, he was drafted by Boston, a team that has what appears to be a terrific player development system.
In addition to his base, one of my primary concerns about Young's jumper was (and still is), the fact he has a slow one-two. He was not a productive when he had a hand in his face, and one of the reasons he did is because his "gather" was too slow.
Installing the hop as a means of speeding up his shot and release would lead to more unconstested jumpers, and therefore an increased percentage. After all, the best shooter is usually the open shooter.
But it's far too early in James Young's development to overwhelm him with loads of technical changes. That is precisely why the Celtics must take baby steps in his develop. It would just not be surprising if the next step is quickening up his footwork, because the NBA is a faster game and every inch matters.